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WYPR Radio 88.1

Please listen to 88.1 WYPR Tuesday mornings at 7:35 am to hear a variety of important commentaries by Baltimore community leaders including CSFBaltimore executive director, Beth Harbinson, who will discuss educational equality, school choice, and more. Listen and read below, Beth’s first in a series of pieces for WYPR, “What is School Choice“, which aired on Tuesday, October 14th.

What is School Choice?

When our son was in pre-school, we received a call one day. “Matt was hit in the face with a Lego and there is a pretty nasty cut on his nose.” Matt was our first child and having returned to work, I was already suffering guilt about leaving him in the care of others. The call was upsetting.

We had selected our provider carefully, having exhaustively vetted the school with friends. What was the faculty to student ratio?   Did they nap? What snacks were served?

Fortunately, the Lego cut was not serious. The school handled the incident promptly and we were assured he would not be hurt again. We felt our son was protected. But if we lost confidence, we had the resource to move him elsewhere.

When we moved into our neighborhood to a home carpeted in bright red, it was not the house we selected but rather the schools our children would attend as a consequence of our address.

When we selected a private school for our daughter, it was because we knew she would thrive there, not just do well. She needed a school that was far less structured than our public middle school.

And finally on to high school when she moved back to a public school to take advantage of the wide range of courses offered at a school ranked 17th in the country, we had choice.

Our family has school choice because we could afford the zip code with the good schools……and private school………. and the best pre-school for our children. THIS is school choice in America, but it shouldn’t be.

Baltimore City has embraced a hybrid approach to education and the success of many charter schools is a testimony to the power of this choice. But not everyone who wants to attend these schools can get in.

With over 100 private and parochial schools in the City, many with open seats and statistics better than their public counterparts, why don’t low-income parents have this choice? Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore provides tuition assistance to low-income families to attend these schools but the demand for tuition assistance is much greater that our funding.

And for low-income parents who have concerns for their child’s physical well-being and safety at their designated public school, what is their choice?

Because at the end of the day, school choice allows a child to be in an environment where he or she can learn and where a parent has enough piece of mind to go to work, support their family and not worry about a Lego, doesn’t it?

*Art by Tim Stump for WYPR 88.1 FM

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